SEO is an Internet marketing strategy, and one that every hotelier with a hotel website should look into. It’s the process of influencing, by several different means, how visible your website is among all the unpaid results generated by a search engine. People search for specific things using specific terms (keywords), search engines yield results according to specific guidelines and algorithms, and SEO takes it all into consideration. And so should you. Here SEO expert and advocate Nafsika Bourma takes you through SEO best practices for your hotel website.
Your hotel is your passion
Every day you put all your energy and resources into it to make it prosper. You’ve worked hard to be able to boast the best facilities and the most acclaimed services in your area. You’ve carefully built the most capable, experienced, and eager-to-serve team. You’re alert 24/7, to be able to handle any issue that might arise and compromise your business’s excellence. You’re the perfect hotel manager, and you deserve recognition and rewards for your efforts and the fruit of your labor: your incredible hotel.
But despite how exceptional your property and its offerings may be, you might still struggle to catch travelers’ attention online, to earn their trust, and to increase your profit. In the online marketing arena and in the increasingly competitive—but absolutely promising—hospitality industry, the quality of your hotel and its services don’t always speak for themselves: SEO speaks for them. The customer journey starts on the search bar, and so you have to pay attention to your hotel’s online visibility and how likely it is to appear in relevant search results. You have to pay attention to SEO.
Before getting into the details, I’d like to go over what SEO actually is:
Search engine optimization – it’s how you ensure that your hotel website will appear in the best, highest positions in search results when potential guests search for hotels via popular search engines, chiefly Google. It’s how your website proves to search engines that it meets their requirements and is relevant for their searchers.
At this point, you might be thinking you could easily do that by investing in online ads. However, the magic of a successful SEO strategy lies outside of paid-advertising methods. SEO affects only organic (unpaid) search results, those that have proven to be the most relevant, trusted, long lasting, and stable. So really, it’s a free marketing strategy; you don’t need to spend a fortune on it. As an SEO ambassador I can tell you there are countless more benefits to it. For now, let’s have a look at the two main components of the overall optimization process: on-site and off-site SEO.
On-site SEO for hotel websites
On-site (or on-page) SEO refers to all the tactics you apply to your website itself that will optimize it for search engines. I’m sure you’ve heard enough about keywords, so I won’t focus on that. Mostly because there are many other on-site factors besides having a good keyword that affect your hotel website ranking in search results.
So how else can you apply on-site SEO to your website? By making sure that your hotel website is built according to search engine guidelines. The algorithms, rules, and factors that affect result-ranking might be dynamic, but there are some basics that remain constant, and you can use them to your advantage.
Make sure to do the following:
- Build your website with a responsive web design (RWD). Keep in mind that RWD is not the same as mobile-friendly; stick with the former.
- Your URLs and Title Tags should be short and exact. The shorter and more precise the URL, the better your chance for more traffic. The better your choice of words for your Title Tags, the higher your ranking.
- Reduce your website’s bounce rate by improving your visuals. The more professional your visuals (images, videos, etc.), the more likely you are to attract visitors’ attention, and the longer they’ll stay on the page.
- Add links. Both internal links (that direct the visitor to a sub-page within your website) and external links (that direct the visitor to a relevant website) will boost your search engine presence.
- Since search engines can’t “read” images for relevance, give your image file a descriptive name (when you save it for use on your page) and to add similarly descriptive wording to the Alt Text. This is how you convince the engines that your visual content is relevant.
Of course, these are just a few of the on-site best practices you can employ to boost your hotel website search-engine ranking and increase your conversions, but the message you should take from this is that SEO success starts with having the right website.
Off-site SEO for hotel websites
Now that you’ve optimized your website for search engines, let’s move on to the second stage: building trust through link-building. While on-site SEO is done to the actual hotel website, off-site SEO refers to ways you can promote your website through external sources. Off-site SEO aims to organically attract visitors to your website via other pages and links. Backlinks (or inbound links, as we used to call them) are those links on other sites that direct to yours, and the more you have of them, the higher you rank in search engine results.
The basics of off-site SEO success:
- Building a strong network of backlinks is your main objective. Increasing your traffic via backlinks is what proves to our dear search engines that your site has quality content and can be trusted.
- Your best partner in off-site SEO is social media. Create and manage professional-looking business pages, be present on them, and consistently update their content to entice engagement. After all, a hotel’s image, reputation, and success often depend on how it’s perceived on social media. And these networks are great for link-building.
- Have your hotel listed with local, national, and global online hotel search sites, such as metasearch sites, OTAs, and destination marketing organizations (DMO’s). And present a concise brand image; the information you provide has to be carefully crafted and identical everywhere it appears.
- Cooperate with others in your area. Local events, businesses, activity centers, transportation services, tourist attractions, and whatever else might be of interest to your visitors all present opportunities for cross-marketing. Offer content for their websites or ask them to contribute to yours. Either way, it’ll mean more links for you!
- I’ve saved my favorite for last: have a blog on your website. There’s nothing more attractive, to both search engines and website visitors, than a good blog. Fresh content will help your website rankings, while informative posts encourage visitors to trust you, follow you, and remain loyal to your brand. Don’t forget to host guest writers on your blog as well!
As with on-site SEO best practices, those you can do for off-site SEO are endless. But if you start with the above five, search engines will already favor your hotel website and, as a result, travelers will choose you over the competition.
Before I leave you, as content marketing’s biggest fan I want to tell you one last thing: When it comes to online marketing, the content you present to the world is your hotel’s strongest asset and most vocal advocate.